Las Tristes, Muertas y Dormidas (“The Sad Women, the Dead Women and the Women who are Asleep”) is an installation of drawings, video and performance that translates the private body into the public body. It marks the body as a political entity through a narrative that illuminates violence against women, a violence where the perpetrator lurks between patriarchy and female psychology. My characters dwell in sadness, sleep and death, as they seek to emerge from subjugation. According to John Berger “Men look at women, women watch themselves being looked at.” The male gaze is a tool of aggression where, it seems, women encounter the “impossibility” of emerging triumphantly (and if the male gaze can have such profound psychological effects, what can we expect from verbal and physical abuse). This “impossibility” arises from women’s (mis)education, part of an intricate cultural system of values and prejudices, which usually play in favor of men. Writer Ana Castillo writes, “We are afraid to see how we have taken the values of our oppressor into our hearts and turned them against ourselves and one another.”
Thus, my visual research begins with a visceral response to the feeling of “impossibility,” drawing being the best medium due to its qualities of immediacy. The elements in the exhibition (drawings, video, performance, and text on the wall) work in conjunction with each other, creating an ambiance in which the viewer is immersed. In early installation plans, all of the drawings were laid on the floor. It was important to convey the susceptibility of my characters, and was a direct reference to the homicides in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Also, part of this body of work I wrote a story.
This text was written on the wall and incorporated into the performance as a means to “give voice” to the more than four hundred women murdered in this part of the world. In the story, they lie flat on the ground just where they were murdered. They are only able to see the sky and the flatness of the desert land. The performance maintains this horizontality, as I unfold the women/drawings from a stack of white sheets and lay them on the floor. Upon each sheet is a drawing of a woman, her eyes shut; she may be asleep or dead. I, as healer, sing and talk to her. By mimicking each of the drawings’ positions I also ‘become’ one of them, a victim of violence.
Photos: Carlos Vazquez, Karla Landgrave, Polina Porras Sivolobova